If you’ve ever tried to donate blood or even gotten your blood tested at a doctor’s appointment, you might’ve received a mundane warning about how low your iron levels are. You may shrug it off, but a World Health Organization (WHO) report claims that iron deficiency is a global issue due to the fact that 80 percent of people don’t have enough iron.
Every time you take a breath, you’re using the iron in your red blood cells to move oxygen from your lungs through your body. If you’re lacking iron, you’re lacking oxygen, meaning that beginner’s yoga class is going to leave you winded, regardless of how fit you are.
While men only need about 10 mg of iron every day, menstruating women should be taking in at least 15 mg. This level is tougher for women to achieve than men. Periods cause women’s iron levels to plummet, explaining why around 1 in 5 women of childbearing age are iron deficient.
Our dieting culture has even taken a shot at our iron levels, pushing eating habits that make it tough to reach that daily iron goal. If you’re following a low-fat diet, you’re probably missing out on the biggest iron-rich foods-- meat. Do your iron levels a favor and order a side of bacon with your next Sunday brunch.
People may turn immediately to iron-rich vegetables in order to avoid high-fat meat. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this approach, but it’s important to know that there are two types of iron--heme and non-heme. Plants mostly contain non-heme iron while meat has about 40-45 percent heme iron, especially red meat. Our bodies absorb heme iron much more easily than non-heme, making it the best source of iron for the dietary deficient.
Most supplements contain non-heme iron, making a juicy burger a staple of your new weekly meal prep. For vegans and vegetarians, be sure to eat extra helpings of iron-rich veggies. Too much fiber also slows your body’s iron absorption, meaning you’ll need to throw back even more of those high-fat options to meet your iron requirements.
There’s no blanket solution for iron deficient women. If you’re a meat eater, treat yourself to a steak or Taco Tuesday a little more often. Vegetarians and vegans, pile that plate with extra servings of, you guessed it, kale.